Ian Rochford, General Manager of Components at Sealy Australia, knows a thing or two about what makes a good mattress. And it’s a lot more than meets the eye. Innovation is at the core, but it’s also the focus on the details, the materials and stringent specs and processes. From engineering not just the coils, but the machines that make the coils, through to the mindfulness when it comes to material reuse, Ian and Sealy are helping Australia sleep better, one carefully conceived and produced mattress at a time.
Innovation has become something of a catch-phrase for the 21st century – a term thrown around so loosely that it’s almost lost its meaning. But Sealy is
keeping it true to its roots. Each part of a Sealy mattress is the result of years of experience of the collective team and a willingness to think
outside the square and test the possibilities. In fact, this innovation runs layers deep, as Ian Rochford, General Manager of Components, attests.
And Ian should know – he’s been with the company for over 14 years.
“There’s hundreds of years of experience in this building,” Ian says of his team. “We make product and we innovate, but also, we refurbish our own machinery
to be able to create these new lines …We not only engineer the coil, we engineer the machine to make the coil. To do a patented spring that’s
invented here and only made here.”
And in case you thought this was a run-of-the-mill process. It’s not.
Making the spring in Australia is a big thing. Every other bedding brand uses an external manufacturer to produce the majority of its components. No-one
else innovates and is 100% Australian made.
"We have our own formula, our own recipe for the wire. No one else is allowed to have that. It’s our secret herbs and spices," he says.
In fact, Ian and Ty, the factory manager, have traveled to the United States and Mexico to work with the factories there to exchange knowledge and shed
some light on Sealy’s Australian processes.
“Since we’re a global company, there’s a lot of knowledge sharing. We can learn from teams around the world and they can learn from us,” he says.
Innovative design, down to its coil
Creating a mattress is not simply a matter of designing a rectangle and stuffing it with comfortable filler. Consider for a moment the coils within your
existing mattress – this seemingly small part of the whole of the mattress. Creating these coils at Sealy requires a whole think tank in and of itself.
“We’re internally capable of innovating here in Australia; we’re not reliant on others … These days, they (the research and development
team) give us a rough idea of what they want, and we can actually figure out if we can make it. There’s no point having a fancy design if we can’t
make it. Then we’ll go back with what we can make. It’s a very collaborative process, it keeps going back and forth,” says Ian.
“Our machines are the only machines that can produce our patented coil design in the world. It’s all done here,” he says.
An important part of this process is testing (and re-testing) to ensure that the accuracy and quality are on par with Sealy’s standards. “We have very
strict rules that we work to. We have a system in place to check … We believe that every single person is responsible for quality. Every step
of the way that person is responsible for quality,” Ian says.
This attention to detail goes into the whole life-cycle of the components that make up a Sealy mattress. Every part of a Sealy mattress is carefully considered
– from inception through to development, the sourcing of materials, creation of components, and right through to the rejected pieces.
“At the fibre plant, we do a lot of recycling: we’ll bring back all the offcuts from all the Sealy plants in Australia and turn that into the pad. So,
what used to go to landfill is now coming back through here,” says Ian.
Sealy also use offcuts from the garment industry, though the industry isn’t as thriving as it once was. “We have a guy who used to drive around to all
of these little seamstress shops to collect their offcuts. We actually bought the pieces which became the protective layer above the spring. Unfortunately,
it’s a shrinking market, which is why we now make our own protective padding in-house,” Ian says.
The springs that don’t make the grade are also thoughtfully disposed of – instead of being thrown into the rubbish, destined for landfill, they go into
the recycling bin, where they’re sent back to the metal company to be shredded.
“Another part of the components that we look after is the timber,” says Ian. “In the foundations there’s timber, it comes in and goes out, we don’t do
any processing. It comes from Maryborough. All Australian timber ... The process of the line has all these cameras watching the product fly along –
it picks up the smallest faults and within a flash it will reject it. So we have a tight spec, that’s why only the best gets through.” Ian says.
“Sealy is a company that’s very proud of its product – about where it’s come from, the quality of the build, the technology behind the product. And my
job is to uphold that. It’s so easy because it’s either right or it’s wrong. If it’s outside the spec, we don’t let it through. There’s no decision
to make,” Ian says.